The days of Texas Tech running backs breaching the 1000-rushing-yard plateau may be over. No Red Raider back has accomplished that feat since Ricky Williams turned the trick in 1998. It may be time to lower the bar.
Tech has two backs with 900-yard talent in Kenny Williams and Deandre Washington. Running backs coach Mike Jinks says that that duo has separated itself from the other backs on the roster, and that both Washington and Williams will play in the NFL. If Jinks' assessment is correct, the Washington-Williams binary could have a monster season in 2013.
With this piece we'll focus on Washington rather than Williams, not because the former is necessarily better, but because he is lesser known and therefore a bit more tantalizing. They say the most popular player on the team is the backup quarterback; to a lesser extent that may also be true of the second-team running back.
Will DeAndre Washington rush for more or less than 900 yards in 2013?
It seems pretty clear that Washington and Williams will split carries for the Red Raiders, at least until one of the two asserts his dominance, if that happens at all. Mike Jinks declared Williams and Washington "1A and 1B" on the depth chart and all other backs are a distant third. Ordinarily such a division of labor would militate against any single back having a big year, but that might not be the case with Washington in 2013.
To begin with, Texas Tech's quarterback situation is up in the air, so to speak. The lingering back injury to presumptive starter Michael Brewer has thrown the position into turmoil. Now the Red Raiders will roll into the season with two freshmen—Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield—vying to be Tech's leading field general. And there's no telling if and when Brewer will return to the fold.
Now Webb and Mayfield have talent. Both will likely be stars at the collegiate level eventually, but it is not reasonable to expect them to set the world on fire immediately. Consequently, Kliff Kingsbury, who is fonder of the run that most people think, will probably try to ease some of the burden off his rookie QBs' shoulders by placing it on the running game. Whereas not so long ago one might have expected Tech to run the ball between 35 and 40 percent of the time, now that number may push the 50 percent mark. And that means lots of runs for Washington.
Then there is the little matter of depth. Kingsbury's up-tempo offense is fatiguing not just to defenders, but to Kingsbury's skill position players as well. For that reason, depth is not just a valuable but a necessary commodity. Well the fact of the matter is that depth at running back is much better than at receiver. Assuming they stay healthy, Washington and Williams could be one of the best running tandems in America. At receiver, on the other hand, the backups are either complete newcomers or rather inexperienced lettermen. And if Kingsbury is not happy with his backup receivers he will be forced to throw the ball less and run it more. Thus another mark in Washington's favor.
Then there is Washington himself. He showed great promise as a true freshman, rushing for nearly 400 yards and averaging close to five yards per tote. A knee injury scuttled what would have been his sophomore campaign in 2012, but he returns as strong as ever and fully confident in the knee's integrity. He certainly showed his old burst in spring scrimmages, and could easily become an explosive-play back this season.
Still, if Washington is to top 900 rushing yards, he'll have to buck history; no back has rushed for that many yards in Kingsbury's offense, either at Houston or Texas A&M. Washington may come close in 2013, but the bet here is that he comes up a bit short.